A Magnet for Cybercrime: Financial Services Sector

As revealed in the 2017 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, the financial services sector was attacked more than any other industry last year. The average financial services client organization monitored by IBM Security Services experienced 65 percent more attacks than the average client organization across all industries (see Figure 1). Moreover, 2016 saw, on average, a 29 percent increase in attacks against financial services organizations, up from 1,310 attacks in 2015 to 1,684 in 2016.

graphical representation of industry attacks
Figure 1: Average client organization monitored by IBM Security Services, 2016 cross-industry versus financial services comparison.

Open Season for Financial Services Cybercrime

A new report by IBM Managed Security Services (MSS) threat researchers took a closer look at the financial services industry’s cybercrime woes.

There was no shortage of cyberattack-induced financial ruin in 2016. Outages due to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) shut down online financial institutions’ operations all over the globe. Malware, including ransomware, was responsible for millions in losses. And with over 200 million records compromised in 2016 — a 937 percent increase over 2015 — the financial services sector ranked third among other industries in terms of records breached.

Where were the attacks emanating from in 2016? According to IBM MSS analysis of monitored financial services client data, organizations were more affected by insider than outsider attacks (58 percent versus 42 percent). Within the insider group, many more inadvertent actors (53 percent) unwittingly caused harm than malicious insiders (5 percent) acting against the organization.

Strengthening the Security Immune System

Companies in 2016’s most attacked sector must work harder to stay ahead of cybercrime. Fortunately, financial services organizations can strengthen their cybersecurity immune system by focusing on mitigating notable security pain points such as insider threats and financial malware.

Read the X-Force Research Report: Security trends in the financial industry

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Michelle Alvarez

Threat Researcher and Editor, IBM Managed Security Services

Michelle Alvarez is a Threat Researcher and Editor for IBM's Managed Security Services; she brings more than 10 years of industry experience to her role. In this role she focuses communications efforts around threat research and mitigation. Michelle joined IBM through the Internet Security Services (ISS) acquisition, where she served as an Analyst on the X-Force Vulnerability Database Team.